Michigan Study: How Persuasive Are You?

October 16, 2015. How Persuasive Are You?
The Importance of Voice and Speech Pattern for Your Ability to Persuade.

How would you like to be more persuasive when you speak?  Research by a team at the University of Michigan (photos above) provides some interesting and useful insights. The University of Michigan study used 1,380 telephone interviews by 100 male and female interviewers to analyze the impact of speech rate, voice pitch and pauses on persuasion ability.  The study correlated these measures with how successful the interviewers were in persuading the respondents to participate in University of Michigan surveys.

The study analyzed several objective measures of speech: Words per second, voice pitch (Hz) and number of pauses per turn (a linguistic measure)—graph below.

151016 Michigan Study image 2

“Interviewers who spoke moderately fast, at a rate of about 3.5 words per second, were much more successful at getting people to agree than either interviewers who talked very fast or very slowly,” said Jose Benki, one of the researchers.

Among the findings was that male interviewers with lower pitch voices were more successful than those with a higher pitch.  For female interviewers the voice pitch seemed to be less influential.

Another finding was the importance of pauses. According to Benki, when people speak they naturally pause about 4-5 times per minute.  Interviewers who had few or no pauses were less successful in persuading their respondents.

The researchers believe this is because overly fluent speakers sound too scripted—and therefore less credible, like ‘sales talk’.  Excessive pausing on the other hand, make you sound less credible and competent—also lowering your ability to persuade.

Pauses may be helpful in making you sound more natural and conversational, thereby establishing a better rapport with the person(s) you are speaking to—which in turn will make you more persuasive.

Although you cannot change the basic voice you are born with—your voice can be trained for speaking purposes. With awareness and training you can avoid speaking too fast or too slowly, and you can learn to use strategic pauses more effectively in speech and presentations.

Your voice pitch is partly gender dependent, but within your voice pitch range you can, with practice, ensure that you use your most resonant voice pitch, which is more effective. Public speakers commonly raise their voice pitch due to being nervous or just unconsciously raise their voice when speaking in front of a group.

Published in May 2011, the full research report can be downloaded here.

According to their Web site, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization.

ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the U.S.—including the American National Election Studies, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, among others.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Power of Introverts

October 9, 2015.
Improve Your Presentations.
Study the best TED Speakers!

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain, a self-professed introvert—is a writer and lecturer, and a former corporate lawyer. She graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you don’t know, you may want to try this 10-question test on Susan Cain’s Web site: http://www.quietrev.com/the-introvert-test/

More than 30% of people are introverts, says Susan Cain in this inspiring and highly interesting talk—one of the 20 most popular TED talks of all time.  Famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Chopin, Larry Page (Google), Charles Darwin, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Gandhi—and more.

TED2012 12.1 million views on TED.com

Opening with a story, Cain provides a great example of how introverts, as speakers, can be just as compelling as any extrovert. Among other talents, introverts are excellent listeners—making them more attuned to the needs and interests of others—including the audiences to whom they are speaking.  Great introvert speakers include Barack Obama, Al Gore and Mark Zuckerberg.

The title of Cain’s TED talk is taken from her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012). More than 2 years after publication, the book remains an Amazon #1 bestseller in 3 categories—and the 101st most sold book among all Amazon books.

This year Forbes Magazine has run an interesting series of articles about introverts, their challenges, talents and interaction with extroverts. You can find all the articles on the Forbes Web site here.

For more information on topics related to introverts, visit Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution Web site: http://www.quietrev.com/

Trond Varlid

Access more TED videos: http://www.ted.com/

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Stanford Study: How CEO Presentations Influence Investors

October 2, 2015. Stanford Study:
How CEO Presentations Influence Investors

How does the quality of your presentation impact your audience—whether investors, senior management or your team members?

A new study by Stanford University Graduate School of Business, published on August 12, 2015—partly addresses that question. The study examined how the quality of CEO presentations at IPO roadshows influences investor perceptions and company valuations.

The research showed that CEO presentation abilities do influence perceptions of their competence, trustworthiness and attractiveness—qualities measured by the study—and thereby investor impressions and actions.

The Stanford study provides empirical evidence supporting the findings of an Ernst & Young 2008 survey—in which 88% of investors mentioned the quality of roadshow presentations as a key non-financial measure influencing their share buying decisions.

Stanford Professor Elizabeth Blankenspoor (C. photo above), who lead the research study, together with Professors Greg Miller (L.) and Brad Hendricks (R.), says: “Taken together, our results provide evidence that basic impressions of management have a significant impact on investors’ assessments of firm quality”.

The Stanford research study examined 224 CEO presentations at IPO roadshows during 2011-2013 on U.S. exchanges, with 900 randomly selected survey participants watching and rating the presentations.

IPOs were chosen because typically for IPO investors the first major impression of the company and opportunity to gain knowledge, is the roadshow presentation by company CEOs—creating the best research design (research methodology explained in the report—see link further below).

In the Stanford study CEO qualities of competence, trustworthiness and attractiveness were positively associated with investor perceptions and an IPO firm’s secondary market value—even after controlling for traditional determinants of firm value.

Trond Varlid

Stanford Study Report (2015): click here
Ernst & Young Survey (2008): click here

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Power of Storytelling

September 25, 2015. The Power of Storytelling.
Improve Your Presentations. Tell Stories!

Jim Donald, former Starbucks CEO: A Master Storyteller.

Jim Donald is an American executive known for a number of successful, major corporate turnarounds, and a former CEO of Starbucks, among other CEO positions—and a captivating speaker.

Are you struggling to create and deliver stories with impact in your presentations?

If you believe in the power of stories to engage your audience and make your presentations memorable, this three minute self-introduction speech, using three stories, by Jim Donald at the 2005 Starbucks shareholders’ meeting provides a great benchmark and inspiration.

At the time, Jim Donald was President of Starbucks North America and soon to become the next CEO. As you will see, he is a master storyteller and a model for how to create captivating stories and deliver them with great impact.

In fact, so effective and engaging is his way of storytelling that it is easy to be taken in by the stories themselves—and overlook what he is doing as a storyteller and how he does it.

Why is he such an engaging and captivating storyteller?

Firstly, his stories are very well structured—with a story lead-in to create curiosity and get the audience’s attention, then setting the scene of each story—with enough detail for the audience to get a good image of the setting and atmosphere, but not so detailed that the stories lose momentum. And he has a short punch line, which is the same for each story—connecting the stories as well as using repetition for maximum effect.

Secondly, in delivering his stories, Jim Donald makes full use of the techniques and ‘tools’ that we all have at our disposal, if we just make use of them:  Passion, energy, voice dynamics, pauses, eye contact, and body language.

I think you will find it difficult not to be taken in by his infectious passion and energy—his obvious enthusiasm for telling you the stories. He varies his voice pitch and speaking pace throughout, making effective use of short pauses—and speaking as if he were talking to you one-to-one.

Throughout his short speech he continuously looks across the entire audience, making eye contact, and using gestures and stage movements to emphasize and illustrate his stories. All important qualities to be an engaging and effective speaker.

Jim Donald’s success in turning around large, struggling corporations brought him to the attention of Sam Walton, the Wal-Mart founder, who also hired him at one point.

He is a strong believer in the power of stories to exercise leadership and help persuade organizations to change—and says he writes a story every day. We plan to  come back to Jim Donald in later newsletter articles.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Message Map

September 18, 2015.
Carmine Gallo: Message Map.
How to Pitch Anything in 15 Seconds.

Carmine Gallo is a leading communication coach, speaker and author of several best-selling books on presentation skills and public speaking—including The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and Talk Like TED, his most recent book, published in early 2014.

In this short video below he shows how you can use the concept of a Message Map to create a clear and powerful opening message for your product or service in a sales situation.

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Smart Simplicity

September 11, 2015.
Improve Your Presentations.
Study the Best TED Speakers.

Yves Morieux: Smart Simplicity.
As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify.

TED@BCG San Francisco, October 2013

Yves Morieux is Senior Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group.

At EMC Quest training workshops and coaching sessions, we emphasize the importance of finding your own style as a speaker and presenter – one that fits your personality and that you feel comfortable with.

In identifying a style that suits you, you may find it helpful to study leading speakers who could be your role models.

Many of the best contemporary speakers appear on the TED platform, so TED.com is a good place to visit regularly—if you want to improve as a presenter and speaker.

Yves Morieux represents one style of speaking—one that is calm and measured, but highly engaging in his own way.  Note how he stands in the same position throughout his 12-minute talk— without moving even once!  Yet at the same time he is very dynamic, and captivating his audience through his use of voice, speaking pace, gestures and other body language.

Morieux’s TED talk is well worth a study—and he speaks on an interesting and highly relevant topic for most of us.

We were alerted to this great speaker by a good friend and client, Guillaume Desurmont, Asia-Pacific General Manager of Arkema Group.  Thanks Guillaume!

Trond Varlid

Access more TED videos: http://www.ted.com/

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Designing Your Slides

September 4, 2015.  Designing Your Slides:
Edward Tufte’s
5 Principles of Graphical Excellence

We previously introduced information design pioneer, Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus of Yale University and world-leading expert on visual display of information—and his classic book trilogy on the subject.
Here are his 5 Principles of Graphical Excellence—which you may find useful to keep in mind when you create your next set of presentation slides:

Graphical excellence—is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, statistics and design.

Graphical excellence—consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.

Graphical excellence—gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time—with the least ink in the smallest space.

Graphical excellence—is nearly almost multivariate.

Graphical excellence—requires telling the truth about the data.

150904 E Tufte books

Trond Varlid

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading

August 28, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Eric Berlow & Sean Gourley: Mapping Ideas Worth Spreading.  How ideas connect globally.

How would you map 24,000 ideas—in 50 languages, from 147 countries?

That’s exactly what ecologist Eric Berlow and physicist Sean Gourley did—applying algorithms to the entire archive of TEDx talks from around the world to see how they may be connected.


Their fascinating analysis showed that the complexity of the ideas is not random—it has mathematical structure. They used this to simplify the highly complicated network of TED knowledge into a single network map.

140515 Mapping Ideas Globally Image

Global Footprint of TEDx Talks by Topic.

From this analysis they could categorize talks , and see which talks are the most important to men versus  women, young versus old—and how ideas are connected globally.

From a presentation point of view there are a number of interesting aspects worth noting in their TED talk—in particular how they handle the extraordinary complexity of their topic, and make it very accessible and engaging for the audience.

Eric Berlow. Ecologist known for his research on ecological complexity and for creative approaches to simplifying complex problems.

Sean Gourley. Physicist with an interest in politics, using data to understand the nature of human conflict.

Trond Varlid
Access more TED videos:  http://www.ted.com/

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

The Danger of a Single Story

August 21, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story.  Award-winning Novelist & TED Speaker.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award-winning Nigerian novelist whose best-selling books include Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013). Her work has been translated into 30 languages.

She has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the New York Time’s Top Ten Books of 2013, the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

TED Global Conference 2009. ~9 million views on TED.com

One of Adichie’s more unique distinctions is that parts of her TEDxEuston message was featured by Beyoncé in the lyrics of her song Flawless (2013).

I recommend that you watch this 2009 TED talk, which has almost 9 million views on TED.com—for at least 3 reasons:

Firstly, it deals with finding your own voice and mission, something we should all strive for—in Adichie’s case, finding her authentic cultural voice as a person and novelist.

Secondly, the talk is also a reminder and warning about our tendency to stereotype and over-generalize—especially when it comes to people from other cultures and countries—and the risk of serious misunderstanding if we only listen to a single story.

Thirdly, her TED talk is a good example of how a speech that has to be delivered from a speaker stand (probably a requirement at this particular TED conference)—can still be dynamic, greatly engaging and persuasive.

Note how she achieves this by using voice dynamics, frequent eye contact with all parts of the audience, humour, passion and telling stories.

Here is her own Web site: http://chimamanda.com/

Trond Varlid
Access more TED videos: http://www.ted.com/

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

Life’s Third Act

August 14, 2015.  Improve Your Presentations. Study the Best TED Speakers.

Jane Fonda: Life’s Third Act.  Actress, activist & fitness guru.

This TED talk by Jane Fonda—Oscar-winning actress, activist and fitness guru—provides some excellent lessons in persuasive speech delivery and how to engage your audience.

She demonstrates how you can deliver a highly dynamic and compelling speech also from a speaker stand—if necessary, as on this occasion.

TEDxWomen Global Conference 2011. 2 million views on TED.com

Here are 5 take-away speaker lessons from her talk:

Voice.  Note how she makes full use of voice dynamics for maximum effect in delivering her speech— as you might expect from a professional actor. She varies the pitch and volume of her voice, and speaks as if she were speaking to you one-to-one.

Eye Contact—‘Scan & Stop’. Eye contact is one of the most important delivery techniques to engage and keep the interest of an audience.

Therefore, take note of how Jane Fonda keeps looking across at all of the audience, continuously making eye contact—doing ‘scan and stop’ with her eyes.

Humour.  She is also using humour throughout her speech—providing variety and prompting laughter on several occasions.

Body Language.  Although she delivers the speech from a speaker stand, note how she very effectively uses hand gestures—partly to illustrate points in her talk, partly to keep the attention.

Passion.  Last, but not least—she speaks with a conviction and passion that cannot fail to engage and inspire.

Other points worth noting include how she varies the speaking pace—slowing down, keeping steady, accelerating from time to time—and uses stories to illustrate her message and make the speech come alive.

With this talk, Jane Fonda provides an excellent example of ‘how to speak so that people listen’—to quote Julian Treasure, one of the TED speakers we have previously featured.

Definitely one TED talk for your benchmark speech portfolio.

Trond Varlid

Access more TED videos:  http://www.ted.com/

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.